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How to grow, even while facing adversity and tragedy



Welcome to 3 Things You Can Use, where Maddi and I decode self-improvement and entrepreneurship through books, three things at a time.

If you want to improve your life and your business through books with us, subscribe!

This week’s book is Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.

This book is about living and growing after facing off with tragedy.

It starts us out with the author’s own shot of adversity, introducing us to Sheryl’s recent trauma of becoming a widow.

This book has both touching stories as well as practical advice.

And she opens it with:

“Life is never perfect, we all live some form of option B”


So, what are three things we can use from this book?


3 Things You Can Use


1. The 3 Ps

When dealing with grief it is important to avoid these three unhelpful pitfalls.

Psychologist Martin Seligman calls them the 3 Ps that stunt recovery.

1. Personalization

2. Pervasiveness

3. Permanence

Personalization is the belief that we are at fault.

We could have done something different and the outcome would be different.

If we would have packed them a bag lunch they wouldn’t have eaten that bad food.

But obviously, it’s not our fault. We were acting the way we would always have acted and we wouldn’t have done it any other way.

She notes that she could have worried more about his diet, enough to keep his ailment at bay.

Pervasiveness is the belief that this event will affect all the areas of our life.

The idea that, because this sucks, that sucks and that sucks.

Your dog died and now you think your job is going nowhere, your kids don’t like you and your sports team is probably going to lose.

This is just a psychological slant though… not founded in reality. But avoid this way of thinking, one pillar won’t take down the whole castle.

Permanence is the belief that the aftershocks of the events will last forever.

The idea that the feeling we felt when our girlfriend or boyfriend first broke up with us and we couldn’t imagine ever being happy again.

But of course, we don’t even remember that person’s name at this point. And the remnants of the shrine are buried under the rest of the junk in our closet.

Time heals all wounds and the strong feelings lose their strength. Permanence may be a hard foe to combat, having to use time travel to do so, but it is necessary to remember and stay focused, to keep a healthy mindset.

Avoid these 3 Ps that stunt recovery.


2. Boosters

And at this point, you would probably like a boost.

At the end of the long day you want something to look forward to.

And there is a technique that gives you something to look forward to, while even providing psychological and therapeutic benefits.

At the end of the day, pull out your journal and write out these four things:


First, list 3 small wins. They can be anything from, “I went through all of my email today,” to “I washed a few dishes.”

This orients you on your accomplishments of the day and further cements the notion that life isn’t over and you can still progress.


Then, journal a bit. Whatever about the day comes to mind. How you felt, when you felt it, what you did.

This serves as not only a trip to the past when you read it over later, but it also has tons of therapeutic benefits.


The third thing to do is write out what you are grateful for. One small thing and one big thing. I’m grateful for my health and I’m grateful that I have a car to drive.

Gratefulness always brings out a healthy perspective, making your thankful for what you do have and reminding you that things could be much worse.


And finally, write out three moments of joy that you experienced that day.

Did you laugh with your co-workers? Did your kids ask you a funny question? Did you step outside into a beautiful day?

Write these moments down and you remind yourself that you can still enjoy the events in life. That you haven’t lost that. Plus it’s a good reminder of the fun times, especially when you go through the notebook later.


3. The Impact of Control

“In classic experiments on stress people performed tasks that required concentration, like solving puzzles, while being blasted at random intervals with uncomfortably loud sounds.

They started sweating and their heart rates a blood pressure climbed. They struggled to focus and made mistakes, Many got so frustrated that they gave up.

Searching to reduce anxiety, researchers gave some of the participants an escape.

If the noise became too unpleasant, they could press a button and make it stop. Sure enough, the button allowed them to stay calmer, make fewer mistakes and show less irritation.

But the surprising part is that none of the participants actually pushed button.

Stopping the noise didn’t make the difference, knowing they could stop the noise did.

They were in control so they could endure the stress.”

Having control has always been a factor in satisfaction.

Having a button to push when things seem tough makes things more manageable.

Sheryl recommends that you know what mental health resources are available to you and have friends and family that you know you can talk to if need be.

Repeat to yourself that if it gets to be too much, if you’ve ever got t0 push the button, that you’ve always got Joe or Pam to go to and lean on.




When dealing with grief it is important to avoid personalization, pervasiveness and permanence.

Give yourself a boost by writing out 3 small wins, 2 things you are grateful for, 3 moments of joy and journaling.

Seek out and know that you have a button to push if the weight gets too heavy.


This book is a book that I’m sure a lot of people need. It’s especially helpful because she is going through it too.


It has lots of practical advice while being realistic and down to earth.

Though it wasn’t perfect.

There were many times where she seemed to rant about office politics and the negative aspects of culture and that wasn’t so bad because sometimes it was related, but it became bad when she would just keep going on and on, spouting stats and opinions relevant to her more and more irrelevant tangent. Most of the time noting that she thought these things were problems but not offering anything anyone could do about it. And this happened often throughout the book.

But it would seem to be worth it to get through the rants and rambles, because this is a really unique and helpful book to anyone who may be grieving or facing their own adversities.

You can go to her website, for resources and community, if you want to learn more or connect with others in similar circumstances, dealing with loss.


If you’re not subscribed to Average Optimized, make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss next week’s video,  thanks for watching with us and–

we’ll see you next week!


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